Court Stops Eviction of Villagers

Court Stops Eviction of Villagers

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A ZIMBABWEAN court has stopped the eviction of some villagers, who had been ordered to vacate their homesteads after they were convicted for illegally occupying state land.

The villagers, who reside in Masvingo province, are victims of a fresh wave of eviction spearheaded by government across the country, and were convicted on Wednesday 7 February 2024 for occupying gazetted land without lawful authority as defined in section 3(1) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act by Masvingo Magistrate Ivy Jawona, who sentenced them to serve three months in prison, which was wholly suspended.

In addition, Magistrate Jawona ordered the villagers to vacate their land within seven days.

The villagers then engaged Phillip Shumba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who on Monday 12 February 2024, filed an appeal at Masvingo Magistrates Court on behalf of the villagers, seeking to stay their eviction from their land pending the determination of their appeal against both conviction and sentence, which was filed at Masvingo High Court.

On Wednesday 14 February 2024, Magistrate Jawona granted the villagers’ application for stay of eviction pending the determination of their appeal at Masvingo High Court.

Magistrate Jawona ruled that staying the villagers’ eviction would not prejudice the state while the rural dwellers would suffer prejudice if their conviction and sentence for unlawfully occupying state land gets overturned by the High Court on appeal.

In the appeal, which was filed at Masvingo High Court on Friday 9 February 2024, the villagers argued that Magistrate Jawona erred and misdirected herself in convicting and sentencing them to serve jail terms for illegally occupying gazetted land as some of them have been in occupation of their land for more than 40 years and had effected tremendous improvements to their land.

The villagers want the High Court to overturn their conviction and set aside their sentence and refer their matter to the Constitutional Court for a determination of the constitutionality of their eviction.

The villagers argued that they were allocated land by council, which on its own, raised constitutional questions that ought to have moved the court to invoke the provisions of section 175(4) of the Constitution and refer the matter to the Constitutional Court.

They contended that section 3(5) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act directly infringes their right to freedom from arbitrary eviction guaranteed in section 74 of the Constitution.

ENDS

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Kodzero/Amalungelo House
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
Email: info@zlhr.org
www.zlhr.org.zw
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